Author's Notes: Footnotes, yadda yadda.
CHAPTER THREE: JOURNEY TO ANOTHER WORLD
In the mean time, near the isles of Scylla and Charybdis, the witch Circe would normally be busy peering into the lives of mortals in lands beyond, and concocting new brews and potions for whatever nefarious means. For now, though, she was content with feeding her pen of pigs.
Then, with a mighty ka-ra-ka and an echo, Ares's war-chariot came thundering through the heavens, slowly circling the island till it came to graceful halt at Circe's feet. Ares stepped out, slowly, almost painfully, going to one knee, and kissing Circe's hand.
"You have my…gratitude, witch."
"Why so reluctant, o God of War? Surely giving thanks for revealing that little island to that little man for long enough is not so humbling?"
"Ah. Unless…of course…you have yet another favour to ask?"
Addressing the ground, Ares muttered, "Yes."
"The bonds the Amazons placed upon me prevent me from harnessing my full power."
"And you wish them removed?"
Circe paced her pasture for a while, thinking aloud, "Ah, but then, dear Ares, then I would lose my stake. And, tempting as it is for one to have the God of war in…service…"
Ares had had enough. Incensed, he got to his feet and placed his hand upon the hilt of his sword. "Enough, woman! You go too far!"
Circe pointed one finger in his direction, and her eyes glowed unnaturally. A bolt of overwhelming force struck Ares full in the chest. One step after the next became agonizingly difficult, till he could go no further.
Then, she spat out, "Sit. Down."
Ares had no choice but to comply, as his legs were forced down and he landed unceremoniously upon his gluteus maximus.
Circe continued, "If I agree to this, then I want a guarantee. Swear upon your honour – nay, your sword, that neither you nor your forces will harm me once I do this for you."
Ares raised himself to his knees, placing his sword on his hands. Staring right into her eyes, he said, "I swear."
A broad smile spread across Circe's face. "See? Now, was that so difficult?"
With a snap of her fingers, the chains on Ares's arms broke and fell apart. New energy surged through his body, and he stood to his full height, crackling with a new aura. His eyes now glowed with a crimson shine, too. Just as he turned to his chariot, Circe let out a polite cough.
Circe stretched out her hand once again. Ares, nigh brimming with rage, snatched it and laid a swift, bitter kiss on it, before he leapt into his chariot, riding back to his domicile. His cry of "Eia, eia, eia! Alala!"was drowned out by Circe's own mirthful laughter.
Cruising through the air at the same time was a Pegasus, white as the highest clouds, with two riders upon the saddle on its back. Diana sat at the front, holding the reins of the winged horse, while Steve sat behind her, holding on tenaciously to the saddle. An attempt to hold on to her, like a pillion-rider, had been quickly rebuffed.
Diana turned to her passenger, who looked rather green about the gills. "Come now, Steve Trevor. You flew here, after all. Why so sea-sick?"
"I was in a nice thick glass cockpit then, princess."
With a bright laugh, Diana spurred the horse onwards, forcing Steve to grip the saddle ever-tighter. They lowered from the clouds, and now the continents of North and South America, not to mention the Caribbean islands came into sight.
"You can help me now, Steven. See the land forms below us, and help me navigate to your homeland."
Steve unwillingly took a look down, and began gesturing with his foot. "All right, we're just past Cuba…Go north from Florida – that's the peninsula over there, and keep heading up. But stop well before Lake Ontario. You see those two bays? Take the southern one, and land on its east coast. That's Delaware. You can't miss Columbia City."
As she listened to Steve, she looked down on the new world she was about to enter, and the fantastic names of the places that she would soon know. Even the cities shone like gems across the benighted earth. What would this 'Man's World' be like? What of its people, and all those things Steve had mentioned? She could hardly wait.
It was night in Columbia City, Delaware. The city still had some small amount of hustle and bustle, but activity was beginning to dwindle to a slow crawl. Nonetheless, some children were still playing in the central park, watched over by their parents.
While the drone of aircraft was a common sound to all, there was now a new sound in the air: enormous flapping wings, growing louder and louder with each moment. Then they looked up, and saw the Pegasus high above them. Hubbub started up among those in the park.
One man asked the other, "Is that some…big bird?"
"Naw, man. It's horse."
"With wings? Get out!"
"Wait, it's got a rider!"
The winged horse landed in the field slowly and gracefully. All activity stopped, almost as if time itself had too. Everyone's eyes were on Diana as she and Steve stepped off, the latter still somewhat shaken from his trip. They moved aside as Diana took a cord and hitched the Pegasus to a thick tree.
A woman with a child in a pram looked on this whole scene, not quite sure what to make of it. She took a step back as Diana approached her, but Diana wore a gentle smile, and the lasso echoed with her calm words in English.
"At ease, sister. I merely wish to know where I may find this man's camp."
"C…camp? You mean the airbase?"
"That I do, sister."
"It's about…uh, ten miles north of here. Just go along Route 13 and you can't miss it."
Diana turned to Steve. "Well, then. Shall we?"
"Are you kidding? Walk ten miles?"
Diana rolled her eyes. "Oh, if you insist-"
She was about to gain a running start, when the woman yelled.
Diana turned. "Yes?"
"Who are you? Why are you here?"
"I am…Wonder Woman. I have come to bring peace to the world."
With that, she grabbed Steve by the waist, and flew into the skies above, like a red and blue thunderbolt, leaving a stunned crowd in her wake. All the voices, in their multitude of sounds and personas, soon became a mélange of conversation.
"What'd she call herself?"
"Wonder Woman…you don't suppose she's another of those 'supers', do you?"
"And what'd she say…'bring peace to the world'? Kind of lofty, ain't it?"
"All I know is, chick like her shouldn't go around flying in a short skirt…"
Ten miles north, Diana and Steve reached a junction in the middle of nowhere. The two landed in the middle of the road, with Diana gently letting Steve on the ground. He felt the floor with his hand, almost as if to make sure that it was still there. Diana looked down at him with a bemused look.
"Are you all right, Steve?"
"I didn't know you could fly. Sure feels good to be on the ground again."
She responded by pointing at the wings at the heels of her sandals. With a somewhat comprehending nod, Steve got to his feet, leading the way down to the giant fenced compound. He gestured up to a floodlight on a high pole, with a camera mounted below it. A set of speakers adorned another pole.
"We're going to be asked to stop here. Just look at the box and smile, all right?"
Diana nodded. Sure enough, mere steps later, a brilliant light illuminated an oval on the ground, highlighting the two. A buzzing voice sounded from the klaxon.
"Stop. Identify yourselves."
"Captain Steve Trevor, service number 05091893."
"Who is the woman with you?"
"Her name is Diana. I invite her to the base as a civilian visitor. She will be crucial in my debrief."
"Declare all weapons."
"I have my standard-issue Colt. It's clear of bullets. She is only armed with a lasso."
Diana whispered to him, "Only?"
Steve whispered back, "Relax. They don't consider it a threat."
"The subtleties of warfare are lost on your…air force."
"Let me know the next time you have to round up bison at 20,000 feet."
"You are cleared to enter. Get a pass for the woman at the office," sounded the speakers, ending the conversation.
The air base was empty once they entered, bar some token manning of the perimeter and the office. However, one corridor's lights remained switched on. Steve and Diana approached the door, just as the latter was done attempting to pin the visitor pass onto her cuirass, finally picking one corner of the eagle.
Steve stepped forward, holding the door open for Diana. She stopped and gave him an odd look.
"You know I can open a door just fine, Steve."
"Well...it's the polite thing to do."
Stepping through the door, she asked, "Tell me, do men do this everywhere for women?"
"Far as I know", Steve replied, letting the door close.
"And all over the world, they assume we can't do it ourselves?"
"As I said, it's the polite thing. Whatever you make of that, I think you'd better let me handle this. General Darnell doesn't know you, after all."
Steve rapped on the door. A rasping voice shouted, "Come in!"
He tentatively pushed the door open, revealing a small office. At the near table was a blond secretary, with pitch black eyes. She stared at Diana as they moved into the office. Then there, at the far wall, was General Phillip Darnell, a military man with thin white hair but an impressive moustache. He was not happy.
"Trevor! Where the hell have you been? Last I heard from you, you didn't want to test the Triskelion, and now you're here! With this...woman? The hell's going on? And where's the UB-12?"
Steve stopped for a while, trying to figure out just how to start. "Well, sir, it's like this. When I saw civilians on the island, I was planning to turn around and recheck. Then my copilot ejected me out from the UB-12 and launched the missile. Next thing I know, this woman-"
He pointed to Diana with his thumb.
"-saved me. From what I gather, cadet Apati then crashed the UB-12 into the local structures. I was returned to civilisation by this woman, and here I am."
Time stopped for a moment as all General Darnell could do was stare blankly at Steve.
"Are you drunk, soldier?"
"Well, you must be one of the three, because that is the single most cockamammie story I have ever heard from a pilot in my entire service in the Force. I'm giving you a day to sort your mind out. If you can't come up with something better than that by this time tomorrow, I'm putting you on report."
"Now get out!"
"Sir, yes, sir."
As Steve turned to exit, Diana could feel the stares of both the general and his aide almost on her. It was unsettling, particularly from the latter, what with her black eyes as deep as pits. Something about her seemed...familiar.
As soon as they were back in the hallway (this time with Steve simply pointing to the waiting handle), he spoke up, in a seemingly carefree tone, laced with bitterness.
"Well, that could've gone better. Maybe you could try convincing him with that lasso of yours."
"It'd only work in coercing you to tell the truth. I can't make him see what his eyes did not."
"Then you're looking at Steve Trevor, ex-Captain, USAF this time tomorrow."
Thinking aloud, Diana asked, "You said your other rider was called...Apati?"
"Yeah, why? You think I should have told Phil she turned into a demon and you plucked me out of the air and all about your island?"
Slightly annoyed, she responded, "No, simply that it means 'deception' in our tongue. And what of the general's...servant?"
"Funny you should mention her. She came in the same time as Apati did. Name's Kyrie...short for...Kyriefsi or something."
"Why, that means 'conquest' in our language!"
"All right, so maybe they all have weird names. What of it?"
Diana's eyes thinned as she looked back. "Something is wrong. I sense the hand of Ares in this."
"Well, all I know is, I gotta crash for the night. We'd better get your horse back first, though."
"I can summon it-"
"Oh, no, princess. This time, I drive. Return the pass at the office, will you? I'll see you outside."
"No 'buts'. I need to get my ride back home, anyway."
With that, the argument ended. Diana unclipped the pass from her breastplate, wondering just what Steve's 'ride' was.
She stepped outside, to see Steve now dressed in a jacket and a full-face helmet, and straddling a strange machine with two wheels - one at the front and one behind, both in one line. He rotated one of its handles, making it roar akin to a beast. Some parts of the machine seemed to resemble a steam engine.
Looking at Diana, he said, "Pretty sweet, eh? It's the best I can get on a pilot's salary. Get in the back. I'd tell you to put a helmet on, but it looks like you don't need it."
With a smile, Diana walked over and sat behind Steve, in the same way he did.
"Now hold on, princess."
"On to what? Your saddle doesn't have -"
Before she could finish, he had already started the engine, and they were charging down the road at an incredible speed - faster than any beast on land she knew. She found herself holding on to his shoulders - an act he seemed to appreciate a little too much.
"You Amazons can keep your flying horses, as far as I care. I'm happy enough with my Suzuki," Steve said, yelling to be heard over the noise.
"Is that what this is called? A 'Suzuki'?"
"The brand is. This type of vehicle's called a 'motorbike'."
"A 'motorbike'. I see. A horse has a benefit of quieter, Steve Trevor."
"Well, then there's hardly any fun in that, is there?"
As they were talking, neither of them noticed a small dot on the horizon at first. Then, as they approached, it became evident that it was in the shape of a person - a rather large one, too. It was taller than either Steve or Diana, and it seemed to be carrying something heavy in its hand.
Steve spoke up. "The heck? Who's going to be on the road at this time?"
He slowed the bike down, just as the figure raised its load - then brought it down to the ground. With a mighty wham, the whole earth shook, the tarmac even cracking slightly. The bike was thrown off the road, and Diana barely could grab Steve before he ended up as part of the wreck. She put him down, then turned to the figure.
It charged first. As it neared, she saw its form - a giant, demoniac mockery of an Amazon warrior, wearing merely a cuirass and balteus, with greaves on its legs and bracers on its arms. It hissed and roared as it stepped forth, staring at Diana with its pitch-black eyes.
"(Diana, i kóri ton Amazónon! Eímai Kyriefsi, kai tha thriamvéfsei páno sas!) Diana, daughter of the Amazons! I am Conquest, and I shall triumph over you!"
She pulled out her lasso, ready to use it. "(Óchi an écho na po, téras.) Not if I have a say, monster."
They charged at each other, with Steve on the side of the road, unable to do naught but watch. Kyriefsi brought her massive gladius - it was nigh five feet long - into view, cutting and slashing as she moved forward. Diana adeptly blocked her blows with her bracers, looking for an opportunity to strike.
It came the instant Conquest put a little too much force into her swing; a moment of lost balance meant that a simple throw landed her on her back. A swift kick to the wrist dislodged the sword from her hand. Diana unreeled her lasso and wound it around the monster's neck.
"(Míla! Poios sas ésteile?) Speak! Who sent you?"
Kyriefsi, with a defiant stare, spat out, "(Áris, athánatos theós tou polémou!) Ares, deathless god of war!"
Diana started. "Ares!"
The brief moment where Diana processed this was enough for Conquest to regain her weapon and the advantage. She sprung to her feet, knocking Diana off hers, and discarded the lasso around her neck. She faced Diana with a mirthless smile.
"(Synécheia mou - an tolmáte!) Follow me - if you dare!"
Then she turned and charged – not towards Diana, but towards Steve, who was attempting to right his motorbike. Steve looked up, his expression akin to that of a deer caught in hostile headlights. He instinctually drew his knife and held it in front of him, for all the good that would've done.
Thankfully for him, Diana tackled Kyriefsi full in the back, throwing the lasso around her arm. Conquest pulled her along with a sudden jerk, and soon both were heading in the opposite direction – back towards the base.
Steve watched the battle in the sky from where he was. He quickly set his bike back up, and rode towards where they were headed. Whatever happened, hopefully he'd be able to help explain the whole mess.
Diana and Kyriefsi traded blows in mid-air, spinning towards the ground as each tried to gain control of the melee. The airbase grew closer and closer, and as someone noticed the struggle in the sky, a floodlight shone into the sky, illuminating the two.
Soldiers began to mill out of the base, watching the battle above them. The sentries nervously began to finger the loaded magazines in their pouches. Some began to discuss among themselves, while watching the scene unfolding before them.
"The hell's going on up there?"
"Isn't one of them that chick with Captain Trevor?"
Another voice boomed. "Whatever it is, watch them. Shoot them if they attack the base. And if that woman is the same, I want an ID on Trevor's location now."
Both men wheeled around to see their CO, who was putting his jacket on.
Looking around, General Darnell asked, "Now, has anyone seen my ADC?"
"No, sir. She hasn't booked out, neither."
In the air, Kyriefsi now gained the upper hand, and used Diana's own lasso to snare her and send her hurtling towards the ground – right at the airbase's external wall. Diana made a goodly sized dent in the wall, and was barely getting up when Conquest charged full at her, sending both women right through to the interior of the base.
The dust cleared to reveal two figures on the floor; Diana, who had regained her lasso, and General Darnell's aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Demi Kyriefsi. Her jet-black eyes stared triumphantly at Diana as she hollered to all that would hear.
"Help! Help! She's attacking the base!"
General Darnell and the soldiers on the wall wheeled around to see his aide on the ground, bruised and bloodied, and the woman from before standing before her, her arms raised.
"I mean no harm-"
Before she could finish, Darnell turned to the sentry. "Open fire!"
Stunned, the sentry could only let out a, "What?"
"She's already displayed hostile intent, soldier!"
General Darnell's eyes flashed a brilliant crimson as he grabbed the sentry's XM177* rifle. "Oh, for the love of god!"
He opened fire on Diana, who deflected the majority of the bullets. Still, a solitary pellet managed to get past her bracers, marking her cheek. Incensed, she flew straight at Darnell, grabbed his rifle, and broke it on her knee. The second guard had barely changed magazines when his gun got the same treatment.
With that, she flew off into the night. Darnell's only response was to draw his M1911A1 pistol and fire after her, before one of the sentries grabbed his arm.
"Err, sir, she's well outside the camp perimeter now."
"Hmm? Right. Damn. Send out word of her appearance, her so-called 'superpowers' – everything. And find that Trevor! He must be mixed up in all of this."
The red glow dissipated from his eyes, which now fell on his fallen aide. With a gasp, he shouted, "Demi! Are you all right?"
She gave a nod as she got up, and her gaze moved from her boss to the ever-shrinking figure in the sky. She allowed herself a broad smile. Ares's plan was going perfectly.
Steve was headed back to the base when he saw Diana heading in the opposite direction – towards him. Seconds later, she was past him, and gesturing to follow. He paused, looking at the cloud of dust rising from the walls. A moment later, he was following Diana. Something told him he should help her, if questions came flying.
About twenty minutes later, they were back in the park, and Diana had sent the Pegasus flying off to…well, elsewhere. A couple of stunned park goers just stared off into the space it previously occupied. Steve stopped the motorbike on the dirt track and ran up to Diana.
"Hey, what happened back there?"
"Those…men…failed to see with their eyes. They attacked me once Kyriefsi escaped. I disarmed them, and here we are."
Steve nervously asked, "You didn't…kill…anyone, did you?"
Diana gave him a long look. "Of course not. Their minds were being clouded by Ares. I have no doubt that Kyriefsi was doing so for him."
"Good luck trying to get that to hold up in court. Look, it's late, and you know as well as I do that we both need rest. And unless you want to go al fresco, there's my place."
"Very well. Lead on, Steve Trevor."
Steve looked at her before realizing she was gesturing to his bike. As they rode home, even her strong but gentle grasp couldn't put any of his doubts to rest. What had he gotten himself into? How would it all end?
It was later that night, and Steve Trevor lay awake on his couch – Diana had taken the bed – and he was unable to fall asleep. His unease had only grown worse after he'd gotten a call from General Darnell, asking for his whereabouts. He'd given a perfunctory reply and pushed it to tomorrow.
The gravity of everything had finally settled on him. He was as much of a god-fearing citizen as anyone else – but now learning all sorts of myths were true, and that everything that happened was leading up to something cosmic? How much of the world that he'd taken for granted was real?
And what of his companion? There was no doubting it; she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. What did her redhead friend call her? "A gift from the gods"? She certainly seemed like one. If not for her, the whole experience seemed so…unreal. And even with her, he felt himself doubting it.
What sequence of events had led to him being together with her? What had he done…to deserve her? He almost hoped that she never stop having to learn about "his" world – never stop needing him?
Steve shook himself from his state of half-consciousness, shocked at his own thoughts. Surely, he couldn't be so selfish? She had her own mission to fulfil, after all. Why did he assume that he'd always be there, to see it to its distant end?
He then realised that Diana was awake too, standing in his open doorway, in the same garb as he'd first seen her, barring the fact that it was made of one of his bedsheets, two safety pins and a belt lying around the house. She seemed troubled, too.
Looking up, Steve asked, "Can't sleep either?"
She nodded, and then moved towards the couch. Steve sat up to give her some room, and reached for the remote control.
"Well, let's see what's on."
The television – a puny 20-inch CRT – sputtered to life, showing a newscaster's talking head next to a shadowed and blurry photo of Diana.
"If anyone has any news on the whereabouts or activities of this woman, kindly report-"
He killed the broadcast. "Sorry, that didn't help."
"It's all right."
Steve snapped. "No, you don't get it! I don't get it either! This time yesterday, I had a pretty good grasp of what I knew about the world – about my whole life. But then I just had to be the one testing the Triskelion…it had to be crashing on your island of gods and myths and all that…and now, you're here – some "gift from the gods", and you need to stop another god from doing god-knows what and I mean I didn't even know gods existed – the big guy, maybe, but not the stuff you read in textbooks - before today…I mean, you've lived with this stuff all your life…do you understand what it's like, throwing everything you've assumed about the world you know out of the window and having to see everything for the first time again?"
Steve paused, drained. He looked up to see Diana looking into his eyes, a kind expression on her face.
"Yes I do, Steve. I do."
He looked back, as he slowly got what she meant. Finding it uncomfortable, he shifted his view to his slippers.
"Yeah…I guess so…but it's still so much…just so much…"
Diana got up, and reached for his guitar. "Perhaps I can help us both. Is this your lyre?"
Steve looked up. "Uh, yeah, but…"
She plucked at some of the strings, experimenting around till she got the sounds she wanted. Sitting back on the couch, she turned to him.
"This was a song my mother used to sing to me, on stormy nights when I could not sleep. Maybe it'll help you."
The opening chords rang from the heart of the guitar, and she began to sing in a smooth, gentle tone. Steve almost felt the couch rocking below him, like the steady movements of a cradle. They were relaxing, calming. He couldn't understand the words, but even then they sounded…beautiful.
"O love, thou art victor in fight: thou mak'st all things afraid;
Thou couchest thee softly at night on the cheeks of a maid;
Thou passest the bounds of the sea, and the folds of the fields;
To thee the immortal, to thee the ephemeral yields;
Thou maddenest them that possess thee; thou turnest astray
The souls of the just, to oppress them, out of the way;
Thou hast kindled amongst us pride, and the quarrel of kin;
Thou art lord, by the eyes of a bride, and the love-light therein;
Thou sittest assessor with Right; her kingdom is thine,
Who sports with invincible might, Aphrodite divine."**
For that moment, all seemed right with the world; everything would end well. It couldn't last, but Steve slept easy that night.
* M16 carbine
**POWER OF LOVE (from "Antigone") by Sophocles. This English translation, by Sir George Young, of 'Power of Love' is reprinted from Greek Poets in English Verse. Ed. William Hyde Appleton. Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1893.